Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

C.H. SPURGEON: A CALVINIST TO THE LAST

It has sometimes been said that Spurgeon's Calvinism waned as he grew older. This page will refute this bogus claim. It is not so much that his Calvinism waned, but it did not become the main battle ground on which he fought in later years. His last years were taken up with the famous Downgrade controversy where he was busy defending the fundamentals of the gospel e.g. the Inspiration of Scripture and the Deity of Christ etc., rather than the Doctrines of Grace. Many Wesleyans were glad to stand with him in his matter. However he did maintain his belief in the Calvinist cause right to the end and the quotes below are given from his sermons etc., all drawn from the last few years of his life. He died in January 31st 1892. He preached his last sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle on June 7th 1891, (No. 2208) This appears in Volume 37 (37:398) A great excess of Spurgeon's sermons enabled the MTP to be published until 1917. No less than 62 volumes were eventually published. It would take too long to trace from the sermons printed after Spurgeon's death any references he made to Calvinism in his last years. We may rest content from the evidence below that he never wavered, but maintained these glorious old doctrines right to the end.

Volume 35 was preached in 1889, Volume 36 was preached in 1890, Volume 37 was preached in 1891

CHS MAINTAINED HIS BELIEF IN THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY UP TO THE LAST:

"We may preach to you for a thousand years together, and never a soul of you will receive Christ, unless the same Spirit that spake light into the primeval dark shall say, "Let there be light." Salvation is a supernatural process. God himself must come upon the scene before the eyes of a man born blind will see. How this truth exalts God and lowers man! Yes; and the lower we are brought, the better. When we get to feel our utter helplessness, then will our extremity prove to be the opportunity of the grace of God. O heavenly light, shine now into the soul of all who hear or read this sermon!

This light is a revealing light. Whenever the light of the glory of Christ comes streaming into the heart, it reveals the hidden things of darkness. When the glory of Christ is seen, then we sec our own shame and sinfulness. Did it need God himself to redeem us? then we must have been in dire bondage. Did it need that the incarnate God should die? then sin must be exceeding sinful, That is a deep pit which needs that God should come from heaven to lift us out of it. We never see the impotence and depravity of human nature so well as in the light of the glory of Christ; but when he is seen as undertaking this tremendous work, and as putting his almighty shoulder to it, then we clearly perceive what help man needed, and how great was his fall. What a revelation it is when the light shines into the secret chambers of imagery, and the idol gods are made manifest in all their hideousness! May God send this light to many, that their ruin, their doom, their remedy, and their way of obtaining it, may be plainly perceived." (35:229)

"The power to grasp Christ does not lie in our nature in its own strength or goodness. Our state is that of death, and death cannot grasp life. God the Holy Spirit must breathe life into us before we can rise from the grave of our natural depravity, and lay hold upon Christ, who is our life. It is not in unrenewed human nature even to see the kingdom of God, much less to enter it. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." (35:378)

"The Lord also may most truly and profitably come to a man, and in His coming may unveil to him the depravity of his nature. If any man could see his own heart as it is by nature, he would be driven mad: the sight of our disease is not to be borne unless we also see the remedy. When the Lord permits the fountains of the great deep of our depravity to be broken up, then are the tops of the hills of our self-sufficiency drowned in fear. When we see what we are capable of being, apart from divine grace, our spirit sinks. When believers are allowed to see how much there is still about them that is akin to hell, when sin becomes exceeding sinful, and we feel that the taint of it has defiled our whole nature, then it is that we are horrified and appalled. What an abyss of evil is within our bosoms! Probably some of you know very little about it. I pray that you may never discover it by its painful results; but I desire that you may believe it, so as to take a firmer grip upon the doctrines of grace, and exercise greater watchfulness over your hearts. Sin which dwelleth in us is no enemy that we can safely despise. Even in one single member of our fallen nature, namely, the tongue, there dwells a world iniquity: "It defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." What poor creatures we are! The best of men are men at the best; and, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, and the power of divine grace, hell itself does not contain greater monsters of iniquity than you and I might become. Within the magazine of our hearts there is powder enough to destroy us in an instant, if omnipotent grace did not prevent. When this is distinctly perceived, we are troubled before the presence of the thrice holy God."(35:523)

"Sin stupefies and kills. Where it reigns, the man is utterly insensible to spiritual truth, feeling, and action; he is dead to everything that is holy in the sight of God. He may have keen moral perceptions, but he has no spiritual feelings. Men differ widely as to their moral qualities; all men are not alike bad, especially when measured in reference to their fellow-men; some may even be excellent and praiseworthy, viewed from that standpoint. But to spiritual things all men are alike dead. Look at the multitude of our hearers; to what purpose do we preach to them? You may declare the wrath of God against the godless, but what do they care? You may speak of Jesus’ love to the lost; how little it affects them! Sin is not horrible, and salvation is not precious, to them. They may not controvert your teaching; but they have no sensible apprehension of truth: it does not come home to them as a matter of any consequence… Sin has slain them. I see them mingled with this great congregation like corpses sitting upright among the living. I look out upon the masses of this vast city and upon the innumerable hosts of populous countries, and I see a measureless cemetery, a dread domain of death; a region without life…One point must be noticed here, which makes this spiritual death the more terrible: they are dead, but yet responsible. If men were literally dead, then they were incapable of sin; but the kind of death of which we speak involves a responsibility none the less, but all the greater. If I say of a man that he is such a liar that he cannot speak the truth, do you therefore think him blameless? No; but you judge him to be all the more worthy of condemnation because he has lost the very sense which discerns between a truth and a lie. If we say of a certain man, as we have had to do, "He is a rogue ingrained; he is so tricky that he cannot deal honestly, but must always be cheating"; do you therefore excuse his fraud, and pity him? Far from it. His inability is not physical, but moral inability, and is the consequence of his own persistence in evil. The law is as much binding upon the morally incapable as upon the most sanctified in nature. If, through a man’s own perversity, he wills to reject good and love evil, the blame is with himself. He is said to be dead in sin, not in the sense that he is irresponsible, but in the sense that he is so evil that he will not keep the law of God…O sinners, dead in sin, you are not so dead as thereby to be free from the guilt of breaking God’s command, and rejecting Christ; but you heap upon yourselves mountains of guilt every day that you abide in this condition." (35:581-582)

"I say, then, that while grace gives us the gospel to believe, grace also gives us to believe the gospel. We are personally to believe the gospel, and so only can we be saved. But if I came before you to-night, and had nothing further to say than "Believe the gospel, and you shall be saved," the message would add to your solemn responsibility, and yet it would not save you; for you would not believe, but would continue in your sins. Man left to himself is an unbeliever, and an unbeliever he will remain. To meet the deep depravity of our nature, and its settled unbelief, he who gave the gospel to be believed, also gives the faith that believes the gospel. This is a wonder of grace; but then in the realm of grace everything is wonderful. We are so set on mischief, so proud, so vain-glorious, so unbelieving, that we never do come to receive the gospel, except through the operation of the grace of God upon our consciences and wills. The faith which comes to God first came from GodMy believing, when they did not believe, did not spring from any betterness of nature on my part. God forbid that I should dream such a thing! It did not spring from any natural excellence of my will." (36:246-247)

"God, in a renewed manner, speaks to us by his Word when his Spirit applies it to us individually. We never truly hear the voice of God in Scripture until the truth is spoken home to each heart and conscience by the Holy Ghost. Revelation must be revealed to each one; other wise it soon comes to be a veiling of truth, rather than a discovering of the Lord’s mind. The revelation is clear enough in itself; but we have not the opened eye till grace bestows it. If we have not the Spirit of God, the letter may actually become a veil to hide the spirit of truth; this, indeed, it should not be, neither is it according to its natural intent and tendency; but our depravity makes it so, turning even light itself into a thing which blinds." (37:35)

CHS MAINTAINED HIS BELIEF IN THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION TO THE LAST:

"In the infinite sovereignty of God he passed by the fallen angels, but he chose to raise fallen man. Those who cavil at the doctrine of election should answer this question: Why is it that God has left devils without hope, and yet has sent his Son to redeem mankind? Is not divine sovereignty manifested here? We can give no answer to the question, What is man that God thus visits him with distinguishing grace? save this — "He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion." Intending, therefore, no forgiveness to this evil spirit, the Lord put no questions to him." (36:654)

"Our Saviour did not hesitate to preach the deeper doctrines of the gospel to the most miscellaneous assembly. When he began to preach where he was brought up, they all gathered with admiration about him, until he preached the doctrine of election; and then, straightway, they were so maddened that they would have destroyed him. They could not bear to hear of the widows of Israel passed by, and the woman of Sarepta chosen; nor of a heathen leper healed, while the many lepers of their own race were left to die. Election seems to heat the blood and fire the wrath of many. Not that they care to be chosen of God themselves; but, like the dog in the manger, they would keep other people out of the privilege. Not even to prevent these displays of bad temper did our Lord keep back the discriminating truths of the Word." (35:867)

CHS MAINTAINED HIS BELIEF IN THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF PARTICULAR REDEMPTION TO THE LAST:

"Now, also, our Lord’s work was done. We are sure that the purpose of his love is secure, or he would not have returned to his rest. The love that brought him here would have kept him here if all things necessary for our salvation had not been finished. Our Lord Jesus is no sudden enthusiast, who rashly commences an enterprise of which he wearies before it is accomplished. He does not give up a work which he has once undertaken. Because he said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," and then ascended to the Father, I feel safe in asserting that all that was required of the Lord Christ for the overthrow of the powers of darkness is performed and endured: all that is needed for the salvation of his redeemed is fully done. Whatever was the design of Christ’s death, it will be accomplished to the full; for had he not secured its accomplishment he would not have gone back. I do not believe in a defeated and disappointed Saviour, nor in a divine sacrifice which fails to effect its purpose. I do not believe in an atonement which is admirably wide but fatally ineffectual. I rejoice to hear my Lord say, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Whatever was the purpose of the Christ of God in the great transaction of the cross, it must be fully effected: to conceive a failure, even of a partial kind, is scarcely reverent. Jesus has seen to it that in no point shall his work be frustrated. Nothing is left undone of all his covenanted engagements. "It is finished" is a description of every item of the divine labour; and, therefore, has he ascended on high. There are no dropped stitches in the robe of Christ. I say again, the love that brought our Lord here would have kept him here if he had not been absolutely sure that all his work and warfare for our salvation had been accomplished to the full." (36:307)

CHS MAINTAINED HIS BELIEF IN THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF IRRESISTIBLE GRACE TO THE LAST:

"If I profess to defend the doctrines of grace, and yet am not assured of the truth of them, is not that a lie? If I have never felt my depravity; if I have never been effectually called, never known my election of God, never rested in the redeeming blood, and have never been renewed by the Spirit, is not my defence of the doctrines of grace a lie?" (35:679)

"I remember, when I believed in Christ, and took him to be my trust, and was saved: I believed, and thus I entered into life and peace. It was not till some time after that I saw the reason why I had believed. I said to myself, "How is it that I have believed in Christ, while others who have attended the same gospel ministry, and have enjoyed the same advantages, have not believed in him?" The enquiry was not, "Why did they refuse to believe?" I saw at once that their unbelief was their own fault and folly, and that the blame must be laid at their door, for they wilfully refused the Saviour; but this was not the question: I was not judging them, but I was examining myself, and enquiring why I had believed in the Lord Jesus. I saw that if I had believed, it was not to be set down to my personal credit. I could not take to myself any honour because of it. My believing, when they did not believe, did not spring from any betterness of nature on my part. God forbid that I should dream such a thing! It did not spring from any natural excellence of my will. There was a submissive will in me; but a something from above made that will submissive, and that something lay at the back of everything. Then I understood that it was God’s grace that had made me to differ; and I gave to God, there and then, the glory of my faith, and the credit of my choice of Christ. I have never met with any Christian man, whatever his doctrinal views, but he has been willing to give to God the glory of his conversion. He has ascribed it to the working of the Holy Spirit, and not to himself; and he has joined with me in praising God for it. Though the brother may cavil at the doctrine of distinguishing grace in the cross, yet, in his own case in particular, he has been willing to confess that not only did grace give him a gospel to believe, but grace gave him to believe the gospel. We come; but God draws. We come to God because he draws us. We came to believe in Christ because his Spirit enlightened and persuaded us, and brought us into the happy state of salvation by faith in Christ." (36:246-247)

 

CHS MAINTAINED HIS BELIEF IN THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF THE FINAL PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS TO THE LAST:

"I do not know in what other way to preach from this text than the one in which I am preaching from it. Somebody says, "Oh, that is Calvinism!" I do not care what it is. It is Scriptural. I have this inspired Book before me, and I cannot see any meaning in the words before me, if they do not mean that those who have received life from the Lord Jesus have an endless inheritance. I cannot make them mean anything else. "I give unto my sheep eternal life," must mean that believers are eternally secure. "It is dangerous doctrine," cries one. I have not found it dangerous, and I have tried it these many years." (Sermon entitled: Eternal Security or Sheep who shall never perish (35:876)

"This is our great reliance for the future upholding of the church as a whole, and of each individual believer: the Spirit of God dwelleth with us, and shall be in us. The church of God will never be destroyed; the gates of hell shall not prevail against her; for the Holy Ghost dwelleth with us, and shall be in us to the end of the world. This is the reliance of the child of God personally for his perseverance in grace. He knows that Jesus lives, and therefore he shall live; and the Holy Spirit is within him, as the life of Christ, which can never die. The believer pushes on, despite a thousand obstacles, knowing that God gives him the victory, through the Lord Jesus Christ, out of whose hand none can pluck him." (35:187)

"A Scotch minister tells the story of an aged saint who, on her dying bed, said that her Savior would never leave her to perish. "But suppose that he did not keep his promise, and you were to be lost?" She answered, "He would be a greater loser than I." When asked what she meant, she answered, "It is true that I would lose my soul; but God would lose his honour and his glory if he were not true." Brethren, if we have trusted in God, and have come out of the Egypt of the world through his grace, and have left all its sins behind us, if we were left to die in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus Christ would lose his glory as a Saviour, the divine Father would lose his name for immutable faithfulness, and the Holy Ghost would lose his honour for perseverance in completing every work which he undertakes. The Lord God of Israel will never stain his glory, wherefore be ye confident that he who brought you out of Egypt will bring you into Canaan. How I delight in that verse which we sang just now —

"My name from the palms of his hands eternity will not erase/ Impress’d on his heart it remains in marks of indelible grace/ Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is given/ More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heaven."

(37:108)

CHS MAINTAINED TO THE LAST THAT CALVINISM WAS A RICH FARE:

"The doctrines of grace are the cream which many cautious preachers skim from the milk of the Word lest it should prove too rich for the stomachs of their hearers. A solid portion of Calvinistic doctrine is like a joint of nourishing meat, and the people of this generation are such babes that they cannot digest it. It is too rich for me!" cries one. I know it, I know it. But I pray the Lord to make you grow into men, who can enjoy the fat things full of marrow, and the wines on the lees well refined. There are glorious truths of which beginners know nothing, and through not knowing of them they miss much joy. Full many a child of God goes fretting and worrying when he ought to be singing and rejoicing, and would be so if he knew what God has provided for him." (35:366)

CHS MAINTAINED TO THE LAST THAT ALTHOUGH CALVINISM HAD A NARROW GATE…IT ALONE LAID TO RICH PASTURES:

"There is not another gospel that I know of that is worth the comparison for a single minute. Oh, but, they say, there is a gospel that is much wider than yours. Yes, I know that it is much wider than mine; but to what does it lead? They say that what is nicknamed Calvinism has a very narrow door. There is a word in Scripture about a strait gate and a narrow way; and therefore I am not alarmed by the accusation. But then there are rich pastures when you enter within, and this renders it worth while to enter in by the strait gate. Certain other systems have very wide doors; but they lead you into small privileges, and those of a precarious tenure. I hear certain invitations which might run as follows: — Come ye disconsolate; but if you come, you will be disconsolate still, for there will be no eternal made sure to you, and you must preserve your own souls, or perish after all. But I shall not enter into any comparisons, for they are odious in this case." (37:60)

CHS MAINTAINED TO THE LAST THAT THE PREACHER DID WELL TO PROCLAIM CALVINISM :

"It is well for the preacher to remind men that they are lost by nature, and that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It is well that sin should be made to appear sin, and that self righteousness should be made to look like filthy rags. Human inability and the need of the Holy Spirit, must be set forth clearly, and the sovereignty of God must be proclaimed solemnly. The Lord has a right to pass over whom he pleases; but if mercy comes to any man it will be by the sovereign act of God — because God wills to do it, and not because any man deserves it." (36:191)

CHS MAINTAINED TO THE LAST THAT CALVINISM WAS WORTH LISTENING TO AND COULD DRAW CROWDS:

"The doctrines of grace which I have preached to you have a hold upon the heart and intellect, like that of certain colours when the wool is dyed ingrain. Because these doctrines have not been sufficiently preached, our people are easily carried away with every wind of doctrine, Brethren, the old evangelical doctrine of Luther and Calvin had about it power to create enthusiasm. See how the Huguenots mustered to a sermon when it was death to hear a reformed preacher. Geneva sent forth men who could gather crowds in regions crimsoned with the blood of their brethren. Why did the multitudes come together? Would any man jeopardize his life to hear a "modern-thought" sermon? My brethren, there is something in the old gospel worth hearing: there is an election of grace most precious, a redemption which really redeemed, and a work of grace within which ensures final perseverance and eternal glory." (35:773)

CHS MAINTAINED TO THE LAST THAT BELIEF IN CALVINISM WOULD TAKE THE SOUL TO SPIRITUAL HEIGHTS:

High doctrine is glorious doctrine, high experience is blessed experience, high holiness is heavenly living. Many souls always keep in the plains: the simple elements are enough for them; and, thank God, they are enough for salvation and for comfort. But if you want the richest delight and the highest degree of grace, climb the hills and roam among the mysteries of God, the sublimer revelations of his divine will. Especially climb into the doctrines of grace: be not afraid of electing love, of special redemption, of the covenant, and all that is contained in it. Be not afraid to climb high, for if thy feet be dipped in the oil of grace, they shall also be so shod that they shall not slip. Trust in God, and you shall be as Mount Zion, which can never be removed. Your shoes shall be iron and brass, for lofty thought and clear knowledge, if you commit your mind to the instruction of the Lord. Receiving nothing except as you find it in the Word, but in a childlike spirit receiving everything that you find there, you shall stand upon your high places. Your feet shall be like hinds’ feet, and your place of abode shall be above the mists and clouds of earth’s wretched atmosphere of doubt. (35:9)

RETURN TO CALVINIST INDEX:

RETURN TO SPURGEON INDEX:

RETURN TO INDEX PAGE: